• Tuesday, September 02, 2014

China vigil for knife attack victims

BBC Online
Kunming authorities patrolled near the railway station on Monday
Kunming authorities patrolled near the railway station on Monday

China has held a vigil for 29 civilians killed in a mass knife attack at a railway station, as witnesses spoke of horrific scenes during the attack.

Several men and women burst into Kunming station, south-west China, on Saturday, stabbing people at random and wounding more than 130.

Officials have blamed separatists from the Xinjiang region for the attack.

China's security chief, Meng Jianzhu, has vowed "all-out efforts" to "severely punish terrorists".

Meng condemned the "brutal attack on defenceless, innocent people by violent terrorists" in quotes carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

There are at least 10 suspected attackers, with four shot dead by police at the scene, Chinese state media report.

A female suspect was detained and is receiving treatment for injuries, reports say.

Eyewitnesses said the attackers used curved swords and meat cleavers to stab people at random.

A parking attendant at the scene, identified only by his surname, Chen, told Reuters news agency: "I saw five or six of them. They all had knives and they were stabbing people madly over by the first and second ticket offices."

On Sunday, the UN Security Council said it condemned the attack "in the strongest terms".

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the attack as "terrible", adding: "There is no justification for the killing of innocent civilians."

Security at Kunming's Changshui International Airport was stepped up on Sunday, Xinhua reported. Kunming is the capital of China's Yunnan province.

'SHOCKING BRUTALITY'

More than 100 people attended a vigil at Kunming station on Sunday night to mourn the victims, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Kunming resident Chen Bing said: "I hate those terrorists. I want to in any way I can express my feelings of grief for those killed and injured."

Another man at the vigil, who did not wish to be named, told the SCMP he was saddened by the incident but concerned over problems in Xinjiang.

He said: "We were never told why there was so much unrest there... what did our government do there to attract that much anger?"

Chinese authorities said evidence from the scene pointed to separatists from Xinjiang - a region in the far-west of China bordering Central Asia - as being behind the attack.

However, no details were given and the claim could not be verified.

Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighur minority group. Recent months have seen several violent incidents there which the government has blamed on extremists. Verifying these reports is difficult because foreign journalists' access to the region is tightly controlled.

China is often accused of exaggerating the threat of Islamist terrorism to justify its harsh security crackdown in Xinjiang and the restrictions it places on the religion and culture of the Uighurs, the BBC's John Sudworth reports from Kunming station.

Beijing is certain to argue that the scale and shocking brutality of this attack shows that the threat is real and serious, our correspondent adds.

The incident comes a few days before the opening of China's annual parliamentary session, the National People's Congress, where domestic security is expected to top the agenda.

Last October China blamed Xinjiang separatists when a car was driven into a crowd of people on the edge of Beijing's Tiananamen Square, leaving five dead.

Published: 10:45 am Monday, March 03, 2014

Last modified: 11:08 pm Monday, March 03, 2014

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